We have been exploring the topic of questions in our recent 4MAT blog series. In almost every 4MAT Train the Trainer program, the question of how to handle questions for which you don’t have the answer comes up. Let’s look at some strategies for effectively addressing questions we don’t know the answer to:
–If the question is directly related to the course content and objectives, offer to find the answer. You can share something like: “That’s a great question. I’m going to make a note of this and do a bit of research. I’ll have an answer for you tomorrow morning.” If the course is wrapping up, alternatively, you can offer to send a follow-up email with the information.
–If the question is advanced or of interest to only a select few individuals, you might choose to give them some additional resources to explore. You might share something like, “I see you are interested in exploring this further. Let me recommend a helpful book (or blog, url or article) that goes into depth on this topic.”
–If the research is not available or contradictory around the topic, let the learners know this. You might say something like, “The jury is out on of this one. Experts such as xx, tell us that xx. I recently read an article in xx that shared a different perspective. What are your thoughts on this?” Encourage the group to explore the topic further.
–If the question is not relevant to the defined outcomes of the course, use a stay-on-track strategy. If the question is taking the group down a rabbit trail that leads somewhere you don’t want to go, you can use the “parking lot”. Simply post a flip chart paper on the wall to record and “park” questions or topics for later discussion. It is important to set this up early in the session and explain the use of the parking lot. You might say something like, “That’s a good question. Let’s put this in the parking lot. If we end up with a bit of time left over today, it would be interesting to explore. If we don’t, you and I can chat about this after the session.”
Do you have a favorite strategy for addressing unexpected questions?